This Week In 1985: November 17, 1985
It's not always a good idea when characters from TV series release spin-off singles. Scratch that - it's pretty much always a terrible idea. Case in point: this week in 1985, a character from one of my favourite shows at the time debuted on the Australian chart with a novelty record.
Such was the popularity of the TV series that the single ended up becoming a top 30 hit in Australia, despite being fairly dreadful. But it least it wasn't as big here as it'd been in the UK, where it almost topped the chart.
Another song that almost went to number 1 in Britain did manage to climb to the top of the chart in Australia this week in 1985. "Take On Me" by a-ha spent its first of two weeks at the chart summit.
Off The Chart
Number 100 "This Is England" by The Clash
Peak: number 62
This was the lead single from the final - and critically savaged - album by a Mick Jones-less version of The Clash. The LP was called Cut The Crap - and so they did, splitting in early 1986.
Number 96 "Is It A Dream?" by The Damned
Peak: number 69
The goth rock band had been going for a decade, but this single (which came with an alternate video) from Phantasmagoria was their first Australian chart appearance.
Number 94 "After The Fire" by Roger Daltrey
Peak: number 60
The Who might've amassed 13 top 50 hits, but their lead singer had only ever managed one as a solo artist, "Come And Get Your Love" (number 46 in 1975). This lead single from Under A Raging Moon, written by band-mate Pete Townshend, didn't add to that tally.
Peak: number 91
Not even the fact that this track was recorded live in Melbourne in August - and was exclusively released in Australia (before being issued in a couple of other countries in 1986) - helped this advance any further.
Number 86 "Eaten Alive" by Diana Ross
Peak: number 81
It might've been co-written by Michael Jackson and Barry and Maurice Gibb, and featured Michael and Barry on guest vocals, but this title track from Diana's 16th studio album was a resounding flop in Australia, the US and the UK.
Number 50 "Hole In My Shoe" by neil
Peak: number 29
More than a year after it reached number 2 in the UK, this spin-off single by the miserable hippie from The Young Ones finally reached the ARIA chart. The reason for the delay, of course, was that in a pre-fast tracking world, the cult sitcom about four uni students sharing a house, which aired between November 1982 and June 1984 in Britain, took its time to make it on to Australian TV and really develop a following. Upon the song's initial release here in 1984, it only just slipped into the top 100.
One of the more obvious candidates for a novelty record, neil (as his character name was stylised for this release) moaned his way through a remake of the 1967 single by Traffic (also a UK number 2 hit). Produced by Dave Stewart (not the Eurythmics member), "Hole In My Shoe" also featured the vocals of Barbara Gaskin, with whom Dave had previously recorded a hit remake of "It's My Party".
As much of a fan of The Young Ones as I was, I couldn't get into "Hole In My Shoe", partly because I hate novelty records in general, but also because I much preferred Rik and Vyvyan to Neil on the show. Those characters - as well as Mike - would also have their time on the singles chart in 1986, with a cover version that performed a whole lot better than "Hole In My Shoe".
Number 46 "Living On Video" by Trans-X
Peak: number 40
Here's another song that took its time to reach Australia. "Living On Video" was originally released in Canada in English and French (as "Vivre Sur Vidéo") versions by synthpop duo Trans-X in 1983. Remixed in 1985, it became a UK top 10 hit and even cracked the Australian top 40 as a 12" release.
Number 45 "Nikita" by Elton John
Peak: number 3
In last week's 1990 post, we saw as Elton released his first career-spanning retrospective - and this single from 1985 was one of nine songs from the '80s included on the 30-track collection. It was actually his highest-charting single in both Australia (an honour it shared with "I'm Still Standing") and the UK for the decade.
The tale of forbidden love during the Cold War, "Nikita" is about a guy from the West (Elton) who falls for someone called Nikita (inferred to be a woman in the music video but actually a male name in Russia) - but Nikita will "never know" of the guy's affections. In the video, the love interest is actually a woman working at border security who lets Elton across the border... but they never get to share intimate moments, like a game of tenpin bowling, together.
The song, which features Nik Kershaw on guitar and George Michael on backing vocals, was the subject of a plagiarism lawsuit against Elton and his songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin, three years ago - but the claim was dismissed. Although "Nikita" shared some overarching lyrical themes about an East-West romance with the other song, there's no copyright protection for a general idea.
Number 23 "If I Was" by Midge Ure
Peak: number 10
These days, it's often overlooked that he was the co-writer and producer of Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?", and the co-organiser of Live Aid, but in 1985 there was a lot of goodwill towards Ultravox frontman Midge Ure as a result of his part in the charitable events. So much so that when he decided to restart his solo career (which had produced two stand-alone singles up until this point), anything he released probably would've been given a warm reception.
As it turned out, "If I Was" just happened to be a really good song - and duly went to number 1 in the UK and reached the Australian top 10. Would it have done so well without his humanitarian efforts? I'd like to think so. Although he came close with 1989's "Dear God", Midge never saw the inside of the ARIA top 50 again - either as a solo artist or with Ultravox, who released one final album in 1986.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1985:
Next week: Whitney Houston finally breaks into the top 50 - with a song that is often forgotten to be a cover version. Another remake brings Rose Tattoo back to the chart, and there are new hits from Whitney's "aunt", ZZ Top, Prefab Sprout and Red Box.